June 15, 2005

Contact: Angela Heisel, 272-3651

Harriet Bull, 272-6794


A New Mexico team has been awarded a $9 million dollar, three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop the New Mexico Molecular Library Screening Center (NM-MLSC.) The NM-MLSC center is one of the ten centers in the Molecular Libraries Screening Centers Network (MLSCN). The MLSCN is part of the NIH Roadmap initiative aimed at putting medical discoveries on the fast track to improving health as well as making more research tools. The NM-MLSC will be centered at the UNM Health Sciences Center , with major HSC components in the UNM Cancer Research & Treatment Center (CRTC), the UNM College of Pharmacy, and the Division of Biocomputing of the School of Medicine .

The UNM HSC will be part of a network of ten national facilities working to identify bioactive small molecules that can be used as research tools.

The director of the NM-MLSC Larry Sklar, Ph.D. and director of research at the UNM CRTC said "This is an important step for the scientific process in going from individual scientists working in small groups to teams of interdisciplinary networks across the country working together. "

"In this center, we will discover small molecules that target important biological processes. The targets come from the biomedical research community and our center will perform screens on these targets with small molecules. We then use chemistry to optimize activities of these small molecules and output data back to the research community. These small molecules can be used as probes, imaging agents and leads for new drug molecules," Sklar said. The Division of Biocomputing, established through the assistance of the New Mexico Tobacco Settlement, will provide informatics support to the center.

Tudor Oprea, MD, PhD, Director of the Office, said, "This is truly a team effort where work to evaluate small molecules, both virtually and physically, are integrated. We will continue our successful partnership with Chemical Diversity Labs from San Diego , in order to identify and optimize new molecular probes."

The Center team includes researchers from New Mexico State (Jeffrey Arterburn and Pete Herndon), New Mexico Tech (Alex Kornienko), and Chemical Diversity Labs (Alexandr Kiselyov), a leader in medicinal chemistry, in San Diego . Luminex Corporation, in Austin , Texas , will also contribute their tools and expertise in the analysis of multiple targets to the NMMLSC. Scientists from other UNM departments will include Bruce Edwards and Larry Sklar from Pathology, Eric Prossnitz from Cell Biology and Physiology, Tudor Oprea, David vander Jagt and Robert Royer from Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Lorraine Deck and Wei Wang from Chemistry, Herbert Tanner from the School of Engineering and a new senior medicinal chemistry recruit from the College of Pharmacy .